Clemson had its home opener Friday against Cal State Fullerton in a game that was a little more than your average soccer match.
The Tigers dominated possession and the game, but was helped along by a little luck. At 17:33 in the match, Cal State’s keeper Paul-Andre Guerin left the box for a routine clearance which turned into a shank off his right boot and a Clemson goal.
The goal was all the fifth-ranked Tigers needed in a 2-0 victory at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson.
“I thought we were tight,” Clemson head coach Mike Noonan said. “I thought that the goal did relax us a little. I thought we were a lot better in the second half, particularly after the second goal.
“Credit Robbie Robinson, the kid was a handful up front. Kimarni (Smith) went in and you can see we had an element that we didn’t have in past years in terms of speed in the front line.”
Clemson (1-0) looked like the more comfortable team on the pitch as it controlled a majority of the possession time, especially in the attacking third. The Tigers’ midfield was able to dominate the ball on both ends, leaving little room for Cal State to make any progress on the attack and little time for to function as a defense.
With Clemson on the counterattack at most points in the game, Fullerton had little chance at stopping and scoring against the Tigers.
While Clemson was swarming on the attack in the second half, Robbie Robinson forced a penalty kick after being taken down by Cal State’s Daniel Adoo at 59:43. That led to a Malik Mbaye goal as he calmly buried the PK into the bottom left of the net for the final goal of the game.
“I thought Malik was good, he was solid,” Noonan said. “I thought that he Patrick (Bunk-Anderson) and Ximo (Miralles) in the back played really well. Malik has faced a lot tougher times in a soccer game at Clemson.
“In a penalty kick he’s as cool as they come and that’s what you want. Malik is a pretty calm and cool customer.”
The Tigers next game will play Radford on Sunday at 6 p.m. Radford should be a tough challenge for Clemson. The Tigers will look to bring the same success they were able to bring to their opening game.
Perhaps the best thing to come from Friday’s victory is the fact Noonan can finally shave his beard after gaining their first victory of the year. Because he is superstitious and he does not like to break tradition Noonan will not shave his beard from the time training camp starts until his team’s first victory. He started the tradition during his time as a player back in college.
Clemson has won each of its last six home openers, meaning Noonan’s family gets to see his whole face again.
“My daughters are so happy right now, and my wife to be honest with you,” Noonan said. “That definitely brings a smile to my face. It’s something … I just can’t break tradition. We will be clean shaven tomorrow.”
—Photo by Carl Ackerman / Clemson Athletic Communications